Last month’s Supreme Court ruling that police must factor the age of young suspects they intend to question into decisions about giving Miranda warnings did not give specific guidelines, leaving much open to interpretation, says the Washington Post. The ruling came in a North Carolina case that focused on a seventh-grader interviewed by police and school officials about a residential break-in. The 13-year-old was not given a chance to phone home before he was taken to a closed-door school conference room for questioning or told at the outset that he was free to leave. There were no Miranda warnings about his right not to talk and to have a lawyer.
Lawyers, school leaders, and advocates have begun to weigh how the ruling could reshape student questioning. Many experts expect more Miranda-style warnings from police — and more caution from educators. The ruling also could prompt more police in schools to call parents before questioning, said lawyer Ken Schmetterer, who wrote a brief for the American Bar Association. “It's a very significant decision for kids,” he said, noting that the court recognized that children are more easily coerced and impulsive than adults, less likely to foresee the implications of their actions and more likely to make false confessions. Fairfax County, Va., prosecutor Raymond Morrogh said, “I'm afraid it signals a sea change in what was, if not a perfect rule, an easy-to-understand rule.” Many in law enforcement, he said, will now wonder: “Should we read every 13-year-old his rights?”